Part six of our 2012 Downhill Mountainbiking World Cup preview and we talk to the fastest girls on the planet!
Words and Photos: Sven Martin.
What track/venue are you looking forward to most and why? Is it the track, country, fans?
Floriane Pugin: Leogang!! Well, kinda liked how I ended up there last year I loved the rooty sections, reminded me of my home trails in Châtel!
Rachel Atherton: All of them! Val di Sole because I love that place, no matter how savage the track gets! Some of the best memories of my life are from that place. Windham because I love Windham, the town, the organisers, the crowd is always UNREAL! Norway because its sick to be going somewhere new, especially somewhere like that…and Fort William because I have unfinished business with that damn track!
Tracey Hannah: Leogang Austria. Because it’s the world champs, I’ve never been but I can’t help but look forward to it.
Myriam Nicole: All of them Val di Sole, Hafjell, Leogang for the track, Val d’Isere for the country (France is lovely isn’t it?) and of course Fort Bill for the fans!
Emmeline Ragot: Val d’Isere I think because it’s in France and I hope to see lot of speculators as la Bresse.
Manon Carpenter: Fort William is always really fun, there’s so many people there supporting you and having a good time the atmosphere’s wicked. I’m looking forward to going back there with some legs this time!
Sabrina Jonnier: Mont Sainte Anne, it’s always been my favourite track, the country and people are nice.
What track/venue are you least looking forward to and why?
Floriane Pugin: Hmm…I have to say Pietermaritzburg…Even though they’re working very hard to make it interesting and fun to ride, they can’t erase the one-minute flat section and I prefer steeper and more technical tracks. But we carry a lot of speed and it’s got some nice jumps, which gave me the Flying Banana nickname last year
Myriam Nicole: Maybe PMB because of the pedalling section but still I love being there, the country is beautiful.
Rachel Atherton: Probably Fort William, because I had a dream a while back that the motorway was steeper and had MASSIVE jumps on, and they were so much fun, I could whip like no-body else, then I woke up and realized it wasn’t reality…those jumps were so good tho!
Emmeline Ragot: I think it’s the South Africa track, because it’s really early in the year and after we have to wait 2months to get the 2nd WC, and because it’s not really a downhill track, they is too much pedalling.
Tracey Hannah: I am looking forward to every single race/track. I am just stoked to be able to race again, I’m so lucky
Manon Carpenter: I’m looking forward to all of them; you can have fun at all the tracks if you keep an open mind.
Sabrina Jonnier: I do have tracks I prefer, but do not hate any of them, so I’m always happy to travel anywhere to ride my bike.
What do you feel about such and early start to the season (Mid March) followed by such a big break before Round #2 (6 weeks)
Sabrina Jonnier: Too many things to rush to get ready!
Myriam Nicole: That is definitely too early, but coming in the sun while the weather is freezing in France is such a good thing to do!
Emmeline Ragot: Ha I just talk about it in the last question, I think that is hard to do this race, because that means that we have to train really hard to do this WC and then have a break and do it again. It’s hard to be preparing for this race, not a lot of people have the chance to ride DH in the winter.
Floriane Pugin: It’s not the best but it’s not that bad. As PMB is an easier track I’ll still have time in April to work more on my technical skills as I almost just took off my skis!
Tracey Hannah: It’s good for me; I’ll be going back to work between races so it works well.
Manon Carpenter: Hmm not sure, it’s the same for everyone so it doesn’t really matter when the season starts… I am looking forward to getting some more time in on the bike before Val di Sole though
Do you train for the year as a whole, or do you because of the timing and nature of PMB South Africa track switch your training accordingly?
Floriane Pugin: Each year we set the objectives with my coach and we set the periods where I will be at the peak form. So my training is adapted to every race, we’ll see if it’s working or not in PMB. But I prefer not to put too much pressure on me for the first round.
Emmeline Ragot: I’m training the whole all year.
Myriam Nicole: I train for the year; PMB is not my main goal…
Tracey Hannah: I train in general getting stronger and fitter. Then focus on the race ahead a few months out.
Manon Carpenter: There’s definitely been a big focus on the physical side of things like fitness and strength, but that’s gonna help out for the whole year not just SA.
Sabrina Jonnier: I’m training like every year for the full season but this year because of the timing and nature of PMB’s track we did oriented the training a bit more for it.
Where else or what other countries, regions, tracks would you like to see the UCI visit?
Rachel Atherton: I would love to go back to South America, the people down there are so appreciative of having a sport come to their area, they really make it feel like a World Cup, you know? Personally I would like to see two consecutive races at each venue, whether that is the same valley, the same region, whatever, it just makes sense to me that once you are at a place and have brought in the crowds, keep it going a little bit…
Tracey Hannah: Australia again, the riders there are so into it and the race atmosphere is awesome, for my Aussie friends I wish the UCI would visit more often.
Emmeline Ragot: I think New Zealand could be really cool.
And in France like les Gets, or Morzine, Lourdes (département des Hautes-Pyrénées)
Floriane Pugin: It could be nice to visit other track we’ve never been to. I think it’s weird to race for many years on the same track, even though they make some changes. As there are so many trails in the world why wouldn’t we change… But it’s also hard to imagine a season without Mont Saint Anne or Fort William…
Myriam Nicole: Meribel for sure, the track and the place there are amazing!
West coast of USA would be fun; I think there is a lot of good track in Switzerland too! I wish Champéry could be back in the program next year; this track is a real DH track!
Manon Carpenter: Somewhere Spanish speaking! South America would be amazing. And how about Wales?
Sabrina Jonnier: Different regions and track in Italy, there are so many good ones there. Australia and New Zealand, it’s a bit far but nice riding too.
How many other non UCI DH events/races will you compete in in addition to the World Cups? What do you think is a good number of races and length of season for racing?
Tracey Hannah: A couple of ixs cups, and a French cup to fit in around work. I like the 7 series world cup, I think it works well and it’s a good test mentally and physically.
Myriam Nicole: I’m going to do the Crankworx in Les 2 Alpes, the French champs and for the first time in my life I’m going to whistler with my team and my brothers, that is going to be awesome!Between 15 and 20 race is a good deal!
Rachel Atherton: In my ideal world I would race every race, World Cups, Nationals, Enduro style races, Home made races, Maxi-Seat Up pedal Festivals, Moto, the lot. It would be amazing to have a body that could cope with that! I am not satisfied just racing World Cups, and perhaps 10 WCs a year would be nice I’d like to race as many British races as I can, and then a select few Enduro / Mass start jobbies…
Emmeline Ragot: I think that could be good to have some more events for the season.
Floriane Pugin: I’m going to do the French Championship and some IXS European Cups and some French Cups if I can fit them in my schedule… I have no idea what should be a good number of races but I’d say late April to mid September would be perfect.
Manon Carpenter: Yeah there’s going to be plenty of other races in the mix. I don’t know how many for sure, going to see how it goes ‘cos you do have to be careful not to burn out. Only thing I would say I the schedule could be thought out a bit better so the travelling isn’t so intense, June is gonna be hectic!
Sabrina Jonnier: Depends, I like to race as long as I’m having fun!
Have there been any major changes to your program and approach for 2012? (Physical, mental preparations, new coaches etc.)
Floriane Pugin: Well, it took me quite a while to recover from my crash in Champéry, two months without doing any sport and trying to get my head back on track. Now it’s all good and I’ve trained hard. This winter was so cold, I haven’t done so much inside trainings before (home trainer, gym) But I did also lots of skiing and a very nice trip to Japan with some friends to eat loads of fresh and light snow!
Tracey Hannah: Being my first season back I’ve just been working hard to get back up to speed and get fit for the season opener in South Africa’ and here I am, let’s see how we go…:-)
Emmeline Ragot: The biggest change is that I am on a new team with a new bike.
Manon Carpenter: Spent the whole winter training for once! New physical coach Alan Milway, discovered the gym, got a proper motorbike, racing on clips, and had a few chats with a psychologist and nutritionist from Sports Wales, so quite a few changes…
Sabrina Jonnier: New team, new coaches this year.
Rachel Atherton: Yes. Many major changes. I’m not going to go into them, but yes, alot of much needed changes I think…
Myriam Nicole: Nope, I love the people I am working with; I wouldn’t change them for nothing in the world…
What did you feel was your biggest regret in 2011, and what are you doing different to remedy that?
Floriane Pugin: Champéry for sure! I was feeling so good on that track and I felt like everything was there to make it happen. I did some timed trainings and it was showing that I was on it but in the quali, I had a massive crash on a jump under the lift. I guess I jumped too much on the left and hit the bank at the landing and stopped like 50m below in the grass. Can’t remember a thing from that day and a half of the next one. It was so hard to watch the finals from the finish area but I felt like I had to do it to get over it… Now it’s past and I’m trying to remember only the helpful stuff!
Myriam Nicole: I wasn’t focused enough on the lower section in Champéry…
Manon Carpenter: Don’t regret anything as such, there are things I could have done better but I did what I could, had fun and got what I wanted out of the season!
Emmeline Ragot: I missed a bit of the World Cup season with injuries and bad luck… to remedy that, I’m stopping thinking about it, it‘s over.
Sabrina Jonnier: In 2011 I never got over 2010 season (physically and mentally) and I got injured early in the season; so this year we are getting ready differently.
Rachel Atherton: I was top 3 every race apart from La Bresse where I was 4th after dislocating my shoulder, So I am pretty happy because I did what I set out to do, finish each race and not get hurt…The race that plays on my mind is World Champs. I’d never ridden Champery before and Gee warned me that it was the conditions that you had to learn, not the track…I went off like a bullet and was on a stormer, after my first over the bars I thought it was game over, so kept charging, 4 over the bars later I was only 15secs off Ragot, which isn’t a lot considering… I’m pissed that I didn’t accept that everyone had muddy conditions to deal with, not just me, you know? But I can imagine Pom Pon and Floriane feel the same way
Any major changes to your training regime for 2012 (what worked for you, what didn’t?)
Floriane Pugin: Not much, still a lot of ski, freeriding and ski touring and training hard on the road bike, xc bike, and gym.
Rachel Atherton: Hmmm…some changes, I got a puppy so that makes my gym sessions interesting, trying to keep two eyes on him out the window…I have learnt that I cannot do everything on my own. That was a big deal for me. Nobody can do everything alone.
Myriam Nicole: I believe 100% in my coaches, a few things have change but not a lot.
Sabrina Jonnier: Like I said before, I have new coaches so new training this year, we will see soon if it works for me!
Who do you think is the next rider coming up that we can expect to start seeing breakthrough performances? Or dark horse wildcard riders that if lucky can string together podium worthy run?
Floriane Pugin: I don’t know, I think Emilie Siegenthaler could come more often on the podiums, she’s been improving a lot for the last few years and she is so motivated!
Rachel Atherton: No idea. Sometimes I will see a young rider and think…if only we could take him / her and shape them, they could be unstoppable. Tahnée has got some big balls and she can do well if she gets strong…
Manon Carpenter: I’ve never raced against Tahnée or Tracey Hannah before so it’s going to be interesting to have some new girls on the circuit and to see what they can do!
Emmeline Ragot: Hmmm…concerning the women I think we have to think about Tracey Hannah we don’t know how she is riding right now, but we will see it pretty soon. For the guys, I think Troy will be pretty strong and maybe Loic Bruni too.
Sabrina Jonnier: There are a lot of ‘young’ girls coming up, like Manon, Tahnée, last year Floriane and Myriam finally showed us that they could win World Cups. 2012 is definitely going to be interesting!
Would you ever consider racing a 29′er (or 650B sized wheel) bike at a World Cup? Especially at a track like South Africa. Would you be open to testing such a bike if the wheels, tires and suspension were of World Cup worthy standards.
Myriam Nicole: If my bike looks good I feel good on it and 29’er doesn’t looks good…
Emmeline Ragot: Yup maybe a 29’er could be good. Or a seat dropper or an enduro bike…
Floriane Pugin: I would not be able to touch the ground with such big wheels!!!
Manon Carpenter: I’d be interested to ride one just to see what they’re like but I don’t know about racing one anytime soon… never say never I guess!
How do you feel about Norway and Val d’Isere as two new venues on the circuit? Would you like to see more new venues each year or a mix of tried and tested venues with new venues.
Floriane Pugin: Yes it’s very nice to have some new venues; it would be a new challenge to adapt to new tracks.
Myriam Nicole: They are not new for me I know both of this track, and they are good tracks…I think that is cool to change a bit, I would love to have a new venue every year!
Rachel Atherton: I think for the sport the continue to grow and reach out to new audiences, and also to influence the next generation, it is important to visit new venues, new countries. You can see when you go to new places the effect it has on some people, that is part of our job in a way, spreading the love
Emmeline Ragot: I think is good to have new events sometimes. I think a mix, it’s good to have some new venues but it’s good to have some marks too and the old venues.
Manon Carpenter: Can’t wait! I loved my 2010 season where every track I went to was brand new to me and I had to learn it from scratch; it’s also good if everyone’s on a level playing field. A mix is always good but I can see how riders get bored going to the same track year after year.
Sabrina Jonnier: It’s nice for us French to be racing a world cup at home! The Norway track looks fast and nice.
It’s good to see new venues. I think a mix of old and new venues is good.
Training and conditioning (scientifically) seems to be more important these days both in our sport these days. Do you feel pressured to train harder each year? How important is this aspect vs. skills and equipment for you?.
Rachel Atherton: I would say that I am a perfect example of this: Skills will get you so far, you will be so fast, heads above, perhaps you will even win World Champs and the World Cup series in the same year, but eventually you will crash, and if when you crash your body isn’t conditioned to the same level as your skill set, you will crumble and mangle and then the shit will hit the fan!
It is a fine balance to find and a difficult one to find, but prevention is better than any cure If you have skills, they aren’t going very far, so you can afford to concentrate more time to your physical condition, if you want a long career anyway…
I wouldn’t say pressured but motivated because I know every other girl are going to train very hard so I have to go even harder! I’d like to be stronger to have a little margin and not do any compromise to save energy on a track. I improve every year so we’ll where I am now.
Emmeline Ragot: I don’t feel like I’m training harder each year, because I always have to split my time to train between my studying and training. But I think the physical training is an important part for the performance, you can’t do well without it, but at the same time you have to have good skills and good equipment, so everything plays a part in the performance.
Manon Carpenter: Being a girl I think training has a massive impact on general riding skills as well as racing. It was clear to me last year that you can only go as fast as you are strong, so for me developing strength is just as important as pedal power and skills.
Myriam Nicole: I think everyone is training more and more because we have a lot of hard races like PMB, Mont Sainte Anne and Fort Bill…
If we had more technical tracks people would work more on their skills and equipment.
Sabrina Jonnier: The 3 are all important, being fit definitely helps to stay 100% all season.
What would be your ideal track, venue (combination, style of track) What type of track do you feel your skillset and style is best matched to?
Florian Pugin: I like steep and technical stuff, some slippery muddy root sections Like Champéry or Leogang… I like also the fast sections with some big jumps.
Myriam Nicole: Champéry is the best track ever, so yes maybe more tracks with technical section, steep and not a lot of pedalling section!
Manon Carpenter: Somewhere muddy, steep and technical but warm? Longer tracks where you have to work to keep your speed rather than just letting go of the brakes and holding on suit me best. I think like most people in South Wales, I like tracks with corners!
Emmeline Ragot: I like track in the trees with tight corners, with mud and steep sections.
Rachel Atherton: I like tracks that are fun to ride. Tracks that make you squeal and whoop because you are literally having the time of your life riding them! And being bike riders, we are lucky that pretty much any track can make you do this if it is going down the hill…a track that is natural, loose, ruts, roots, always changing, that is muddy when wet, so that you have to have your foot halfway up to your eyeballs, then it would spit you out on to some flat out turns into some biiiiig step downs so you can recover your breath in the air, then back into the woods all bouncing off trees and having to wall ride around the holes…then it gets so steep and muddy and rutted and rocky that it’s a wonder you can still hold on….woooooo
There is a track like this up in North Wales, oh my gosh.
Alternately Dry tracks that are fast as shite, like Windham, are awesome; they make you step up your riding to such a level you didn’t think possible. I like them all, but being able to win them all is another matter
Who do you think will be the biggest threat to the top three steps of the podium yearlong?
Floriane Pugin: Well, I don’t know, we had quite a nice battle last year… I’d say Tracy Moseley when she’s going to race, Rachel, Myriam, Sabrina, Emmeline, Tracey Hannah.
Emmeline Ragot: We will wait to see, but there are a couple of girls who could do it.
Manon Carpenter: Rach, Floriane Pugin and the rest is wide open I think it’s going to be a good year for the women’s WC!
Rachel Atherton: I shan’t state the obvious. Wait, yes I shall. No, I wont. It’s pointless. But one thing I will say is that I am sad that Tracey wont race a full world cup series, but it would be nice if everyone was fit and strong and in it for one year.
Sabrina Jonnier: Same girls as last year adding the young one coming up and Tracey Hannah who is finally coming back! It will be good to see Tracy Moseley at the few World Cup she will be racing.
What fact do most people not know about you?
Floriane Pugin: You know it now, I ski a lot But I’m also in an Engineering School (INSA of Lyon) in Mechanical Design and I’d love to design my own bike one day!
Emmeline Ragot: That I’m funny haha!
Myriam Nicole: Maybe why my nickname is PomPon?!
Manon Carpenter: I haven’t got massive roots; my hair’s supposed to be like this haha!
Rachel Atherton: I write a lot of poems. It is a bad habit.